Maybe the most interesting thing about Dave East is that he’s 28 years old.
In an era where rappers blow up off SoundCloud and Audiomack, East did it the old fashioned way and his freestyle for Power 106’s LA Leakers is just the latest example. He fermented for years in New York’s underground, garnered enough buzz to sign to Mass Appeal Records and eventually rap powerhouse Def Jam. An unintended consequence of 18-year-olds becoming the face of rap before truly experiencing much of life beyond high school is that, to paraphrase dads, uncles and big brothers everywhere, “these boys ain’t seen shit.” Well, Dave East is the outlier, because at 28 he’s lived his share of life and the Harlem MC has seen some shit.
Look, I can enjoy the carelessness and ignorant bliss of the mostly inconsequential and substance-less music of a Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, 21 Savage or anybody in that ilk as much as anyone else. But sometimes, as a card carrying member of #30AndUp Twitter I need someone to kick that real.
And that’s where Dave East is needed. He’s not mired the old school; he has plenty of 808 thumps in his production and his aesthetic is decidedly current. But there’s little juts in his content, small hints that yes, he’s been through it, made it to the other side and lived to tell about it. So when he started ripping — ironically enough — Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop Dogg’s infamous East Coast diss “New York, New York,” it was a refreshing change of pace for this random, overcast California Friday morning. “I really trapped in Baltimore, so I love The Wire,” he quips, seconds before dropping the equally potent and harsh dose of reality that is “Can’t trust a killer sitting behind you in the back seat.”
Those are just two of a non-stop series of bars lasting nearly three-minutes. East doesn’t waste a syllable, every line containing a reveal, a tidbit of knowledge or a little stunt to celebrate his success. In a new rap world where true freestyles are obsolete — unless you’re Vince Staples — it’s rare to see anyone do what East did here. But that’s him to the core, an oddity where rapping is at a premium even though rap songs are as abundant a commodity as there has ever been.
From the freestyle:
“We all suspects, the police don’t know who to chase
Still coppin bootlegs, always get to the movies late
I ain’t have a convo with Hov, but I know he hear me
Young, rich and the bitches love me, n***a you gotta fear me
Malik’s funeral the last time my eyes was teary
On my daughter I’m fully prepared, I ain’t kinda ready
I can’t even have ’em around me if they kinda scary
In the Harlem state of mind, backwood vibing to Mary
I got this shit in the bag like Branson you hear me clearly?
I used to hop out cabs and the vans and hustle sincerely
You better never front on me and need me
I paid 1,700 for these Yeezys, that’s bottle money
F**k who follow on the Gram, we just follow money”
That’s essentially what the appeal of Dave East is. He’s the byproduct of a foregone era, but also fits right in with new school sensibilities. He’s seen his share of funerals, still copping bootlegs, but is also copping Yeezys and popping bottles. He’s the perfect middle ground, and has the talent to bottle that all up and present a package as satisfying as his not an album/not a mixtape either Kairi Chanel . This much is evident not only in his freestyle above, but in his latest video from Kairi, “Type Of Time,” below.